Ever wondered precisely what it is pathologists do with dead bodies, but couldn't bring yourself to look too closely? Let Dr Ed Friedlander fill you in with the sort of detail that could come in handy when you write that blockbuster crime novel.

His Autopsy site offers a blow-by-blow account of the procedure as carried out in US hospitals - and he has a fine offer should you be impressed with his technical knowledge: If you are in Missouri and need an autopsy, phone 816-283-2200 I can usually be with you within a few hours at most. A kind offer, but so easily refused.

Dr Friedlander is a real enthusiast for his specialty. In doing around 700 autopsies, I have always found something worth knowing that wasn't known during life. Even at major hospitals, in about one case in four we find major disease which was unknown in life. Well, too late to do anything about it now, doc. But no doubt his The Routine Autopsy: a guide for screenwriters and novelists will come in handy one day .

Of course, the language is different in the US: autopsy not post mortem, for starters, and some of the job titles may be a little unfamiliar.

And lets get this clear: The prevailing mood in the autopsy room is one of curiosity, scientific interest, and pleasure at being able to find the truth and share it. And as for stories about under-the-table payments from funeral directors keen for a tip-off, I am not aware of any cases where this allegation was proved. Hmm So having hardened yourself on Dr Friedlanders graphic descriptions of the sound made when the top of the skull is removed and his reassuringly blood n guts-free cartoons of a post mortem in process, it is time for the real thing: the Johns Hopkins Autopsy Resource.

This searchable database of 50,000 US autopsy reports is freely available and in the public domain.

If the text is not sufficient to sate your thirst for knowledge, there is a fully indexed Johns Hopkins Autopsy Resource Image Archive of some 5,000 colour pictures. Most educational.